5 Stretches for Improving Poor Posture You Can Do at Your Desk
Sitting on the job? Make time to stretch!
Stretching can do much more than feel good and improve your flexibility – it can also improve your posture.
You probably stretch countless times a day without even realizing it. Stretching is the body’s way of subconsciously easing discomfort and tension while increasing blood flow. Fortunately, there are ways to stretch strategically to improve things that need improving – especially your poor posture.
What Is Poor Posture?
Does it feel like you’re always slouching or hunching? Is your back starting to arch without you even trying? Your posture may need some improving. “Posture” refers to the position in which a person holds their body while standing or sitting. “Poor posture” is posture that results when certain muscle groups do more work than they were designed for, without a person realizing it. These muscles become strained, so they tighten or shorten up. When this happens, some muscles get over-used, and some muscles get under-used, leading to body aches and pains of all sorts.
In many cases, poor posture isn’t a medical condition – it is typically what leads to medical conditions like back pain, neck pain, muscle fatigue, and headaches. That being said, some medical conditions lead to bad posture, many of which can be corrected by seeing a chiropractor.
Signs of Poor Posture
The major signs of poor posture include:
- Rounded or slouched shoulders
- Tilted hips or arched back
- Bent knees when standing or walking
- Head and neck falling or drooping far forward
The first step in fixing or correcting poor posture is being mindful of your poor posture, and then consciously taking steps to correct it. It could be as easy as remembering to walk taller, with your shoulders back, or lifting your head up from your smartphone more often to avoid “text neck”.
Stretch training exercises and stretches, especially those targeting your chest, back, and abdominal muscles, are also extremely beneficial in correcting poor posture, especially if you work in a desk job where you are seated for the majority of your day.
Improving Poor Posture with Stretching
At our chiropractic clinic in Victoria BC, we routinely show our clients ways they can improve their posture using simple stretches. The following stretches are also recommended by the Canadian Chiropractic Association.
The trapezius is a major muscle of the upper back and neck responsible for moving, rotating, and stabilizing the shoulder blade and extending the head at the neck.
To achieve the Trapezius Stretch, take a seat and slowly tilt your head sideways to draw your right ear closer towards your rested right shoulder. For a heightened stretch, place your right hand over your head and gently rest it on your left cheekbone. Hold this stretch for 20-30 seconds. Repeat on the other side three to four times throughout the day.
See our video for a quick demonstration:
Levator Scapulae Stretch
The levator scapulae are skeletal muscles located at the back and sides of the neck. Their main function is lifting the shoulders. To achieve the Levator Scapulae Stretch, take a seat and gently pull your head down with your right hand, directing your nose to your right-side underarm region. Hold this stretch for 20-30 seconds. Repeat on the other side three to four times throughout the day.
Also known as the Brugger’s Position of Relief, this simple chest stretch doesn’t feel like much but will help open up your chest and keep your shoulders back. The Brugger’s Position of Relief chest stretch is named for its developer, Alois Brugger, a Swiss neurologist who studied back pain as it related to bad posture in the 20th century.
To achieve the Chest Stretch, sit on the edge of a chair with your legs slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Keep your palms facing upwards and lift your chest up while simultaneously drawing your shoulders back. Hold this stretch for 20-30 seconds. Repeat three to four times throughout the day.
Another Chest Stretch can be achieved simply by clasping your hands behind your lower back and slowly pulling your chest open, as demonstrated in our video:
To perform Chin Tucks, begin in a seated position. While looking forward, bring your head backwards without tilting your head down. Think of it as intentionally giving yourself a double-chin when you perform the Chin Tuck. Hold each chin tuck for 8 seconds. Repeat 5 times. Perform this one set of five reps three to four times throughout the day.
Shoulder Blade Squeeze
To achieve the Shoulder Blade Squeeze, assume a seated position with arms relaxed by your side. Simply squeeze your shoulder blades together without raising them. Hold each Shoulder Blade Squeeze for 8 seconds. Repeat 5 times. Perform this one set of five reps three to four times throughout the day.
How Do Stretches Help Improve Posture?
While stretching usually provides instant relief when you’re feeling uncomfortable, over time, stretching also helps you experience the feeling of sitting and standing straighter and more naturally. Your body will gravitate towards this better feeling, and improved posture will ideally follow and start to become more automatic and second nature.
With repeated stretches and more strength training, our clients at Mind Body Spine no longer have to make that conscious effort to sit up straight because they will have learned new postural habits, essentially reprogramming their nervous systems.
Call your chiropractor for more information on how stretches can improve your posture.
Remember to Move Around!
While all of the above stretches can be performed sitting down at your desk, remember to stand up frequently and take short walks throughout the day to avoid staying in a seated position for too long.
Regardless of how many stretches you perform, sitting for too long has several negative health consequences beyond poor posture.
Consider Chiropractic Care for Poor Posture
If your posture continues to suffer despite your use of the above stretches, consider booking some time with a chiropractor, who can work with you to address and correct the underlying issues affecting your posture. When you consult a chiropractor at Mind Body Spine about your posture, the first place we start is with an overall wellness exam that will include the following:
- Looking at your medical history
- Observing how you sit and walk
- Assessing your spinal alignment
- Measuring any noticeable deviation from proper posture
- Performing flexibility and mobility/range of motion tests
Dr. Stephanie Louie at Mind Body Spine is a Victoria, BC, chiropractor with many years of experience helping people of all ages better their posture. Call Mind Body Spine at 250-885-2320 to book your appointment with Dr. Louie.